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Florida Governor Prepares For Violence Before Richard Spencer Speech

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 18:40

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency two days before a speaking engagement by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

Spencer is scheduled to speak Thursday at the University of Florida. And Scott warned in an executive order a "threat of a potential emergency is imminent" in Alachua County, where the university is located.

Spencer heads the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank. In August, he participated in a white nationalist rally that sparked deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Spencer's speech in Florida will likely be his first since the violent protests in Charlottesville. A speech scheduled for September at Texas A&M University was canceled.

SEE MORE: Charlottesville Lawsuits Seek To Prevent Similar Gatherings

The upcoming appearance has already attracted protesters near the University of Florida. And more demonstrations are planned on the day of the event.

Gov. Scott said the state of emergency declaration is "an additional step to ensure that the University of Florida and the entire community is prepared so everyone can stay safe."

The order allows local law enforcement officials to work with state and other agencies to keep the peace during Spencer's speech. It also activates the Florida National Guard to help, if needed.

But Spencer told the Naples Daily News he thinks the emergency declaration is overkill. He said, "If someone is coming to speak I feel like declaring the state of emergency is out of bounds."

US-Backed Forces Take Over ISIS' 'Capital' In Syria

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 17:32

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American-backed forces in Syria say they've taken back ISIS' self-proclaimed capital city. 

The terrorist group had ruled over Raqqa for three years and implemented a strict interpretation of sharia law. Residents who did not follow were often executed or forced to run. 

It's been a long road to recapture. The focus on Raqqa started almost a year ago, but U.S.-backed militias first had to isolate the city. 

The Syrian Democratic Forces said Tuesday it took control of Raqqa — over four months after the fighting moved inside the city limits.

The BBC notes the SDF had cleared ISIS' last two major strongholds in Raqqa earlier in the day. 

SEE MORE: US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Pleads Guilty To Desertion

Now the SDF's focus turns to removing any ISIS fighters in hiding, as well as any land mines or improvised explosive devices left behind. 

An Army spokesperson estimated about 100 ISIS fighters remain in the city, but he stressed explosives and booby traps are the bigger concern. 

Netflix's Content Budget Might've Gotten Even Bigger

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 14:29

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Netflix is no stranger to paying a high price for its content. But its budget for next year might've just gotten even bigger.

The streaming powerhouse said Monday it plans to spend up to $8 billion on programming next year.

That top estimate is more than what the content chief for Netflix said in August.

SEE MORE: The Canadian Government Is Teaming Up With Netflix — Here's Why

Original films are one reason for the high price tag. Netflix plans to release roughly 80 movies next year.

But Netflix also faces increased competition from tech companies like Facebook, Apple and Amazon, which are investing more in original content.

And besides the HBOs and Hulus of the streaming world, media giants like Disney have their eyes on developing their own streaming platforms.

Rep. Tom Marino Is Out As Trump's Drug Czar Pick

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 14:17

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Rep. Tom Marino is no longer in the running to become the next U.S. drug czar.

President Donald Trump said in a tweet Tuesday morning Marino withdrew his name from consideration, adding, "Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!"

The announcement came after a joint investigation by The Washington Post and CBS's "60 Minutes" found Marino sponsored a bill that weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration's power over pharmaceutical companies that produce opioid drugs.

SEE MORE: Getting A Fix: Preventing Opioid Addiction

Trump told reporters on Monday he would reverse Marino's nomination if it was "one percent negative to doing what we want to do."

"I did see the report," Trump said. "We're going to look into the report, and we're going to take it very seriously."

As of Tuesday morning, Marino hadn't yet commented on his withdrawal.

North Korea Official Warns Nuclear War 'May Break Out Any Moment'

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 13:26

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"The situation on the Korean Peninsula, where the attention of the world is focused, has reached the touch-and-go point, and nuclear war may break out any moment," North Korean Deputy U.N. Ambassador Kim In Ryong said.

That was North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Nations. 

He told the U.N. General Assembly's disarmament committee Monday his country supported the total elimination of nuclear weapons. 

But after being subjected to what he called "an extreme and direct nuclear threat" from the U.S. for years, he said the North has the right to possess nuclear weapons for self-defense.

SEE MORE: The EU Just Hit North Korea With More Sanctions — But Will They Work?

The ambassador's comments came not long after the U.S. and South Korea began another round of joint military drills, which Pyongyang has repeatedly condemned.

Tensions between North Korea and the U.S. have continued to escalate in recent months. 

But, despite tough rhetoric from President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CNN on Sunday that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis "will continue until the first bomb drops."

Trump Inaccurately Claims Obama Didn't Call Families Of Troops KIA

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 12:11

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President Trump tried to draw an unusual contrast between himself and his predecessors Monday, saying the way he reaches out to the families of fallen soldiers is different.

Trump said, "The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn't make calls, a lot of them didn't make calls. I like to call when it's appropriate, when I think I'm able to do it."

Trump later walked back his comments after pressure from a reporter.

SEE MORE: Pentagon Defends Response After 4 US Troops Killed In Niger

"I don't know if he did. I was told that he didn't often, and a lot of presidents don't, they write letters," Trump said.

Ex-Obama staffers leaped to defend their former boss, who did in fact call some of the families of soldiers killed in action, as did his immediate predecessors.

Trump's comments came after he was asked about an ambush in Niger that left four U.S. Special Forces members dead. He didn't publicly comment on the incident until 12 days after it happened.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said Trump was "stating a fact" that presidents pay their respects to fallen soldiers in different ways. She also said claims that former presidents called every family of fallen soldiers are mistaken.

The EU Just Hit North Korea With More Sanctions — But Will They Work?

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 02:17

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The sanctions against North Korea continue to stack up. The European Union levied an additional round of sanctions on the country Monday.

Foreign ministers decided to ban EU investment in North Korea and the sale of refined petroleum products and crude oil.

The EU also decided not to renew work permits for North Koreans and significantly reduced the amount of money people can send to the country.

These latest measures go further than previous sanctions imposed by the United Nations but are also part of the international effort to discourage the country's nuclear weapons development.

SEE MORE: Trump Announces New Sanctions Against North Korea

The U.N. has issued two harsh rounds of sanctions since August to target North Korean exports like iron, coal, textiles and oil.

Sanctions are nothing new for the country. U.N. sanctions began in 2006 after North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, and then again in 2009 and 2013. The U.S., Japan and South Korea have independently issued sanctions.

Most recently, the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted a number of North Korean banks and individuals to further weaken the nuclear program's funding.

Despite all these actions, the country has still launched 22 missiles since February.

In order for sanctions to be effective, all member countries need to be on board. In the case of the U.N., this usually means convincing North Korea's major trading partners, China and Russia, to comply.

But North Korea has become skilled at evading these sanctions by trading covertly. Deterring its nuclear program through sanctions alone will be difficult; the country views nuclear weapons as vital to its national security.

California Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoes Bill Targeting Trump's Tax Returns

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 02:02

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The latest effort to compel presidential candidates to release their tax returns has failed.

California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed his state legislature's bill that would require a presidential candidate to share their last five tax returns in order to appear on the primary ballot.

California was one of more than 20 states that advanced bills similar to the one Brown vetoed. So far, none of those bills has become law.

A bill in New Jersey did come close to fruition: The state's legislature passed a bill that would've forced presidential candidates to reveal their tax returns. But Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, vetoed the bill, calling it a "transparent political stunt."

SEE MORE: Visions Of A 2018 Senate Takeover Tantalize Democrats

In his veto statement, Brown said he recognized the "attractiveness" and "even the merits" of such a bill. He also acknowledged the bill was in direct response to Donald Trump's refusal to release his own tax returns during the 2016 presidential race.

But Brown questioned the constitutionality of a law requiring a person to reveal their tax returns, which he pointed out are confidential by law. He also raised the question of setting up a "slippery slope."

He wrote: "Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?"

But not everyone shares his concerns.

One Hawaii state representative told Politico that, with more than three years before the next presidential election, no one was in a rush to pass a bill of this kind. And a Massachusetts state senator said that even though Brown doesn't think the bill is constitutional, the courts might see it differently.

Tax Reform Fight Clips The Wings Of GOP 'Deficit Hawks'

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 00:30

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For months, Republicans have been promising to get tax reform done, and get it done soon. But it seems like there's a new wrinkle to smooth out with that plan: whether or not it should add to the deficit.

Historically, the Republican party has been fiscally conservative. It has worked to make sure tax cuts are offset somehow,  typically with spending cuts. But the clock is ticking, and some major players are ditching that concept to make sure they get something — anything — passed.

Mick Mulvaney, the current director of Office of Management and Budget, was a well-known deficit hawk in Congress. But his tuned has changed just a bit.

SEE MORE: The 6 Categories Where Trump Is Erasing Obama's Agenda

"We need to have new deficits because of that. We need to have the growth," Mulvaney said. "If we simply look at this as being deficit-neutral, you're never going to get the type of tax reform and tax reductions that you need to get to sustain 3 percent economic growth."

Mulvaney now says tax reform will give such a boost to the economy that it will all come out in the wash. Most economists disagree with that assertion, but it's something that more and more Republicans are starting to say.

But maybe not enough to pass tax reform. Sen. Bob Corker and several other Republicans are holding out for revenue-neutral tax reform. And thanks to their slim Senate majority, Republicans need every vote they can get.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is also pushing back on his party's new way of thinking. He told Politico: "I'm a huge deficit hawk. My opinion has always been that you pay for a tax cut with spending cuts."

Right now the hawks' voices are far from the loudest in the GOP, but that could change when more details about the tax bill's deficit impact come out. And it won't take much opposition to throw cold water on another one of the GOP's priorities just in time for the 2018 midterms.

Revolt: Blue-Collar Wind

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 00:00

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America's energy revolution is here, and it's starting in the Heartland. Iowa has embraced the wind energy industry like no other state. In this report, we explore how clean energy is reshaping three major tenets of life in the Midwest: farming, manufacturing and education.

Our new series "Revolt" explores these issues in a fresh context that's focused on Middle America. This is the second of six episodes that will debut weekly every Monday.

SEE MORE: Revolt: When It Rains

Full source list and bibliography:

- Wind turbine technician is the fastest growing job in the U.S. — U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

- "Iowa ... gets about a third of its electricity from wind power — more than any other state." — American Wind Energy Association

- "Most landowners in Iowa get $5,000 to $8,000 for each turbine each year." — Tom Wind, owner of Wind Utility Consulting, Yale Environment 360

- "These things also bring in a lot of money through property taxes, sending millions of dollars in Iowa to schools, hospitals, roads and more." — Iowa Environmental Council

- "A single Maytag factory once employed one in every five residents in Newton, Iowa. ... That is, until the factory closed its doors and moved production to Mexico." — CBS

Trump Promises To Vet Rep. Marino For Drug Role

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 23:58

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President Donald Trump says he's "looking into" a report that Rep. Tom Marino, his pick to head the Office of National Drug Policy, helped craft a law that hurt the government's ability to tackle the opioid crisis.

During a press conference, Trump told reporters: "He's a great guy — I did see the report. We're looking into the report, we're going to take it very seriously." 

report from The Washington Post and CBS' "60 Minutes" claims a 2016 law effectively undermined the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's ability to freeze suspicious shipments from drug distributors.

SEE MORE: Health Insurer Drops OxyContin Coverage To Fight Opioid Crisis

Current and former DEA employees argue the law prevents the agency from effectively targeting the sources of opioids. The Post notes it was passed after a $106 million lobbying campaign by the pharmaceutical industry.

Marino, who received nearly $100,000 in contributions from the industry, spearheaded three versions of the bill in the House before it was passed in the Senate.

The news hasn't gone over well with Senate Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has called on Trump to rescind Marino's nomination, and Sen. Claire McCaskill is planning legislation that would undo the law's limits on the DEA.

Trump praised Marino's support for his campaign, but also says he's focused on curbing the opioid epidemic and plans to have a major announcement on that front soon.

"I want to get that absolutely right. This country, and frankly the world, has a drug problem. The world has a drug problem, but we have it, and we're going to do something about it," Trump said.

Northern California Firefighters Catch A Break As Winds Ease Up

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 23:07

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The high winds fueling the spread of northern California's wildfires died down a bit Sunday, giving firefighters a chance to gain some control over the blazes.

Fourteen fast-spreading wildfires have burned more than 213,000 acres as of Monday. They've destroyed thousands of homes and structures and killed at least 41 people.

But the tide may be changing. Many evacuation orders were downgraded Monday, allowing tens of thousands of people to return home.

Northern California's hot, dry winds, known as "Diablo winds," were a major contributing factor to the fast spread of the fires. The nearly hurricane-force gusts can make a fire's growth unpredictable and tough to contain.

SEE MORE: Inmates Are Fighting California's Wildfires

Those winds combined with low humidity create a perfect storm for a raging fire.

Firefighters have been able to make some progress as those winds abated, but there's still a lot of work left. Two of the largest fires, the Nuns and Tubbs fires, were 50 percent and 70 percent contained early Monday evening.

 More than 40,000 people remain under evacuation orders.

Kurds Lose Kirkuk As Iraqi Forces Take Back Oil Fields, Air Base

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 22:38

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Iraqi forces pushed into the country's northern region, taking away several locations from the region's Kurdish government. 

Iraq called the move an attempt at unity, while Kurdish forces vowed to defend their sovereignty. 

Iraqi soldiers rolled into the city of Kirkuk and surrounding regions to take back control of the area's oil fields, air base, power plant and refinery.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wrote on Facebook that his forces "only acted to fulfill our constitutional duty to extend the federal authority and impose security and protect the national wealth" in Kirkuk. 

While Iraq's northern region is predominantly Kurdish, Kirkuk is home to both ethnic Turkmens and Arabs. 

Kurdish peshmerga fighters took control of Kirkuk in 2014 after Iraq's military collapsed following confrontations with ISIS.

Both Iraqi forces and the Kurdish peshmerga are supplied and trained by the U.S.-led coalition fighting against ISIS. 

Kurdistan's security council tweeted that Iraqi forces were using U.S. equipment in their push into Kirkuk. 

The Kurdish people are often considered to be the world's largest ethnic group without an internationally recognized homeland.

In late September, Iraqi Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence in a nonbinding referendum. 

But that didn't sit well with Baghdad or Ankara. Iraqi and Turkish troops staged joint military drills on the border with the Kurdish region following the vote.

SEE MORE: Iraqi Kurds Overwhelmingly Support Independence In Referendum

While some peshmerga and other Kurdish fighting forces gave ground to the Iraqi army without violence, other forces loyal to the region's leader, Masoud Barzani, fought back. Those groups say they're ready to fight as long as need be. 

Wi-Fi Flaw Leaves An Ever-Larger Internet Of Things Vulnerable

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 20:59

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Security researchers in Belgium have discovered a flaw in the encryption that secures every modern Wi-Fi network in use today.

When a device joins a wireless network, it works with the router to set up an encrypted communications channel. If an attacker sneaks in during this handshake process, they can read and even manipulate information as it's passed around the network.

You might've already seen some alarming headlines. This is one of the deepest computer security flaws since the Heartbleed bug, which opened up HTTPS traffic to eavesdropping.

SEE MORE: Heartbleed Bug Still Affects 300K Servers

The good news is the security community and manufacturers are busy patching routers and devices, just like they did with Heartbleed. You can help by updating your computers, smartphones and anything else that uses a Wi-Fi connection.

The bad news is there are more wireless devices sitting on our networks than ever. Lightbulbs, doorbells, thermostats — even hairbrushes can connect to the internet these days, and their security is often abysmal. Some researchers expect much of the internet of things will stay vulnerable to this attack because manufacturers just don't patch their devices often enough.

Study: Pollution's Effects On Lifespan May Start In The Womb

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 20:35

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The potential effects that pollution has on lifespan could start in the womb.

JAMA Pediatrics published a report Monday showing a link between prenatal exposure to air pollution and the aging process.

The study looked at more than 600 moms and newborns, measuring pollution exposure and biological aging markers known as telomeres.

SEE MORE: Air Pollution Could Be Contributing To Millions Of Premature Births

It found mothers with more exposure to air pollution had babies with shorter telomeres, which some scientists say are linked to shorter lifespans.

Researchers note that even low levels of pollution can contribute to shorter life expectancy and have adverse health effects later in life.

While the findings add to other studies on human aging and environmental factors like pollution, the authors say more follow-up research should be done.

Clinton Foundation Won't Return Donations From Harvey Weinstein

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 19:20

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The Clinton Foundation confirmed Monday it won't return as much as $250,000 donated by Harvey Weinstein.

After a number of women accused the movie mogul of sexual harassment, assault or rape, there have been calls for politicians, and even for some charities, to return money Weinstein gave them.

SEE MORE: Harvey Weinstein Kicked Out Of The Motion Picture Academy

Weinstein promised to donate $5 million to a scholarship program for female filmmakers at the University of Southern California. But after a student-led petition called it "blood money," the college rejected his pledge.

The Clinton Foundation seemed to imply the money it received from Weinstein is long gone.

The foundation said in a statement: "We are a charity. Donations, these included, have been spent fighting childhood obesity and HIV/AIDS, combatting [sic] climate change, and empowering girls and women, and we have no plans to return them."

What The Latest In Gravitational Waves Tells Us About Neutron Stars

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 19:06

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Scientists said the gravitational wave detector LIGO just witnessed a collision of two neutron stars for the first time.

Neutron stars are remnants of supernova explosions. They're the smallest, densest stars in the universe — with a mass almost twice that of our sun but squeezed into an object the size of a large city.

The new discovery helps confirm the long-standing hypothesis that neutron star collisions played a large role in forming the complex chemistry of our universe, evolving from just hydrogen and helium to what we see today. Scientists speculate such collisions created many of our heavy elements, including gold, silver and platinum.

SEE MORE: Nobel Prize Awarded For Historic Detection Of Gravitational Waves

The neutron stars spotted by LIGO spiraled around each other until finally colliding, releasing energy in the form of gravitational waves and distorting space-time. The impact sent out a wave of particles that eventually merged to form elements.

The LIGO and Virgo detectors pinpointed the stars' location. That let other researchers using ground-based telescopes observe the collision and its aftermath — also known as a kilonova.

What happened next is still a little fuzzy. The kilonova could have immediately collapsed into a black hole or become its own neutron star, depending on the amount of mass present. Any extra mass would've sent the kilonova tumbling into a black hole. 

Scientists say more observations of these rare cosmic events could help astronomers better understand the physics behind them.

At Least 3 Dead As Ex-Hurricane Ophelia Slams Into Ireland

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 18:50

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At least three people are dead after the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia slammed into Ireland's west coast Monday.

Ireland's national police told reporters two people died when trees fell on top of their vehicles. Another person was fatally injured with a chainsaw while trying to remove a tree that fell during the storm. 

Ophelia's strong winds and heavy rain damaged buildings, uprooted trees and knocked out power for more than 350,000 residents.

SEE MORE: Hurricanes In Ireland Could Be The New Normal

Met Éireann, Ireland's national weather service, issued a red alert for the entire country through Monday night, warning that there is a "danger to life and property."

Officials say Ophelia could be one of the strongest storms to hit Ireland since Hurricane Debbie in 1961 — the only storm to ever make landfall in Ireland at hurricane strength. Ophelia is also expected to affect parts of the U.K. on Monday.

2017 Will Be One Of The Costliest U.S. Natural Disaster Years Ever

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 17:08

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Hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, cold snaps: The year isn't over yet, but the natural disasters across the U.S. are on track to set records.

Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say there's "a good chance" 2017 will have more expensive severe weather events than 2011 did. They also expect this year's extreme weather to be far more expensive than 2005, when Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans.

Wildfires are still raging in the western U.S., and NOAA has yet to tally impacts from the latest Atlantic storms. But early estimates show Harvey alone is expected to come in at $190 billion — equivalent to about 1 percent of the U.S. GDP.

That will fit 2017 right at the top of the upward trend in the frequency and cost of natural disasters. Scientists agree: One reason we're seeing more and stronger weather events is because of the warming climate.

SEE MORE: One US Region Is Expected To Take The Brunt Of Climate Change Costs

But accurately estimating the full cost of disasters requires more numbers. Researchers also must account for growing urban populationsincreased coastal development; and the insurance on crops and property, which can end up underwater.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the National Flood Insurance Program has paid out almost every dollar it can. If Congress doesn't vote to cancel some of its debt, the program will run out of money before the end of October.

Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Are Rising Across The US

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:53

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For many Jews in America, a scary new reality: Overt anti-Semitism is surfacing more often online and in real life.

Anti-Semitic incidents surged between 2016 and 2017, mostly in the form of harassment and vandalism, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

"We have a disturbing amount of people who subscribe to conspiracy theories and who embrace the most hardened prejudice views," said Brian Levin, director at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

SEE MORE: Radicalized: White Supremacy In America

Levin said there was an "alt-right" insurgency after President Barack Obama was elected. That’s far-right ideology that often advocates white nationalist and anti-Semitic views. Such views gained traction during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"We saw internet trolling directed at journalists primarily focused on a small number of Jews,"  he said. "And there was a relatively small number of people doing a tremendous number of anti-Semitic trolling."

Experts tracking hate speech say the current political and digital-media climate has allowed anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery to spread into the mainstream.

"They're chanting Nazi chants from the 1930s: blood and soil, etc." said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. "They knew exactly what they were doing."